Anti-abortion media use new smear video to lobby lawmakers before health care vote

In the early hours of July 28, Republican senators failed to pass a bill to dismantle key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and defund Planned Parenthood on a 51-49 vote. Prior to the vote, the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) had released yet another of its deceptive smear videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, and anti-abortion and right-wing media circulated the clip as a reason to vote for the Republican bill.

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Center for Medical Progress released new smear video prior to the Senate’s vote on dismantling the Affordable Care Act

CNN: Senate rejected “Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare” by 49 to 51. In the early hours of July 28, Republican senators fell three votes short of dismantling or repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare. According to CNN, “Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare” were thwarted by the defection of three Republican members when “Sens. John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins joined with Democrats to oppose the measure.” [CNN, 7/28/17]

CMP released a new video falsely claiming that Planned Parenthood uses a “loophole” to “fake compliance” with the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. On July 26, CMP released its 17th deceptively edited video, this one featuring covertly filmed footage of Dr. Suzie Prabhakaran, then a Planned Parenthood medical director, discussing a standard medical form used when performing abortions without the chemical digoxin. CMP claimed that the form contained a “loophole for abortion doctors to fake compliance with the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban,” which Planned Parenthood exploits. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was passed in 2003 to prevent abortion providers from performing what anti-abortion groups claimed were “partial-birth” abortions. In reality, the concept of “partial-birth” abortion was invented by anti-choice groups even though no such procedure existed. Despite CMP’s claim, the form is a standard medical document used to establish a provider’s intent to comply with the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which made it a crime to “knowingly” perform a so-called “partial birth” abortion. [Center for Medical Progress, 7/27/17, 7/27/17, 7/27/17; Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, accessed July 2017; Media Matters, 10/12/16]

Anti-abortion and right-wing media promoted CMP’s video as a reason for Republicans to vote for the Republican bill

Susan B. Anthony List called on senators to “watch this video” and pass “a bill defunding Planned Parenthood.” The anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) issued a press release promoting the CMP video as a reason to support the Republican health care repeal. In the statement, SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser urged senators to “watch this video” and use it to “refresh their resolve” to vote for the Republican proposal. The statement continued that because “abortion is not health care,” Congress should pass “a bill defunding Planned Parenthood.” [Susan B. Anthony List, 7/27/17]

LifeNews: CMP’s “new video comes as the U.S. Senate is debating provisions to terminate taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood.” In addition to spreading misinformation about the Planned Parenthood employee illicitly recorded by CMP founder David Daleiden in the latest video, LifeNews’ July 27 article also linked the video’s release to the Senate health care vote. LifeNews noted that CMP’s “new video comes as the U.S. Senate is debating provisions to terminate taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood” and included a statement from Daleiden calling on Congress to “stop forcing taxpayers to subsidize Planned Parenthood’s brutal abortion empire.” [LifeNews, 7/27/17]

Wash. Times: “In response to the CMP investigation, Republicans in Congress promised” to defund Planned Parenthood. A July 27 article from The Washington Times linked CMP’s deceptive videos to a larger promise by anti-choice lawmakers to take actions against the nation’s leading reproductive health care provider. As the Times reported, “In response to the CMP investigation, Republicans in Congress promised" to defund Planned Parenthood. [The Washington Times, 7/27/17]

Live Action News: Latest smear video’s claims should “be spotlighted more than ever, as Congress continues to debate defunding Planned Parenthood.” The anti-abortion outlet Live Action News argued in a July 27 article that CMP’s latest smear video should be part of the ongoing attacks on Planned Parenthood by anti-choice lawmakers. According to Live Action News, “The horrors and admissions outlined in this new video, along with other Center for Medical Progress videos, need to be spotlighted more than ever, as Congress continues to debate defunding Planned Parenthood.” [Live Action News, 7/27/17]

Anti-abortion group Human Coalition tweeted the video at lawmakers before the July 28 vote. Prior to the July 28 vote, the anti-abortion group Human Coalition tweeted the latest CMP video at various lawmakers, including Murkowski and Collins, two of the three Republicans who went on to vote against the bill. Although Human Coalition did not explain the reason for sharing the video in this way, the organization had shared an article on July 26 claiming that “pro-life politicians need more encouragement” from anti-choice advocates. On July 31, Human Coalition tweeted at Collins about defunding Planned Parenthood. [Twitter, 7/27/17, 7/27/17, 7/26/17, 7/31/17]

WND: Latest CMP video released “as the U.S. Senate is debating provisions to terminate ... taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood.” The conservative fringe outlet WorldNetDaily (WND) also noted the timing of CMP’s latest video release. In a July 27 article, the outlet argued that the latest video was released “as as the U.S. Senate is debating provisions to terminate ... taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood.” [, 7/27/17]

Even after the vote, right-wing media invoked CMP’s smear videos to advocate for congressional action against Planned Parenthood

The Federalist: CMP’s videos are part of the case “to finally take away” Planned Parenthood’s funding, and “it’s time our Republican-controlled Congress” acts. In an August 1 article, the Federalist complained that despite “yet another nauseating video” from CMP, “Congress has been unable to defund” Planned Parenthood and needs to “forget defunding Planned Parenthood via Obamacare.” The article continued that because Planned Parenthood is “breaking the law,” it’s “time our Republican-controlled Congress and Republican Commander-in-Chief” take action against the organization. [The Federalist, 8/1/17]

Wash. Examiner: CMP’s work proves Congress should “defund Planned Parenthood,” and “now it’s up to the GOP to actually do something about it.” In a July 28 article, the Washington Examiner lamented that despite having “a majority in Congress and a GOP president, Republicans remain unable to” defund Planned Parenthood. The Examiner called CMP’s smear videos “as eye-opening as they are morbid” and argued that “now it’s up to the GOP to actually do something about it.” [Washington Examiner, 7/28/17

National Review: “Defunding” can’t be “our endgame” after failed vote, but CMP’s work has provided “evidence enough to ensure” Planned Parenthood “executives are prosecuted.” After the failed vote in the early hours of July 28, National Review attempted to redirect the conversation away from “whether to remove Planned Parenthood’s federal funding” by arguing that “the question we ought to debate is whether the group’s executives deserve to be prosecuted as criminals.” According to National Review, because of CMP’s continuous release of smear videos, “we have evidence enough to ensure that its executives are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” [National Review, 7/28/17]

CMP’s work has been discredited, and those involved now face multiple legal actions

CMP has released numerous deceptively edited videos attacking Planned Parenthood -- all of which have been debunked. Since July 2015, CMP has released a number of videos containing undercover discussions with Planned Parenthood personnel and staff members of private, for-profit biomedical procurement companies. CMP has claimed that its videos show that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling fetal tissue and altering abortion procedures in order to profit from the sale of fetal tissue. Scores of media outlets have confirmed that the footage shows no illegal behavior by, or on behalf of, Planned Parenthood and that the words of Planned Parenthood personnel who were secretly filmed have been “grossly [taken] out of context.” [Media Matters, 8/31/15]

A growing number of Planned Parenthood investigations have cleared the organization of any wrongdoing. CMP’s deceptively edited videos have spurred at least 13 states to launch investigations into Planned Parenthood's operations, even though there are “only three states in which Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics can participate in fetal tissue donation programs,” according to Yahoo News. All 13 states -- Massachusetts, Indiana, South Dakota, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, Kansas, Washington, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina -- and the Department of Health and Human Services have announced that they found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood or any violations of federal fetal tissue laws. [Media Matters, 8/24/15]

Daleiden found in contempt after leaking unreleased footage to anti-abortion media in violation of an injunction. On May 25, CMP circulated an unlisted YouTube link to a video of deceptively filmed footage of National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood employees. In February 2016, federal judge William Orrick had issued an injunction against the release of such footage due to the threat of violence and harassment against the employees. Steve Cooley & Associates, a law firm representing Daleiden, also put up an unlisted playlist featuring some of the footage. The playlist and related videos were removed from the website and YouTube, but not before anti-choice groups began copying and reposting the video. As a result, Daleiden and two of his attorneys were found in contempt of court for releasing the barred footage. [Media Matters, 5/26/17; Glamour, 7/18/17]